Apr 22nd 2022

4 Contextual Targeting Strategies for the Post-IDFA World

Learn how to build future-proof mobile marketing campaigns.

The user identifier was a pillar of mobile marketing, and many wondered if effective targeting could be achieved without it. Fortunately, there are alternatives. Long before IDFA rose to prominence, mobile marketing ran on contextual targeting strategies. Now, this classic approach to targeting is popular again, and publishers and advertisers need to get reacquainted.

If you want to learn more about contextual marketing, this article is a complete primer to the practice. It defines contextual marketing, lists the key data, reviews the top strategies, and outlines the next steps you can take toward implementation.

Jump to a section…

What is contextual targeting?
Common contextual targeting data
4 essential contextual targeting strategies
Category-based strategies
Device-based strategies
Portfolio-based strategies
Partner-based strategies
How to implement contextual targeting strategies

What is contextual targeting?

Contextual targeting is the practice of defining an audience for an advertising campaign using publicly available data originating from source content and device details. Unlike user-level data, the data available to drive contextual targeting strategies takes some creativity to deploy effectively. App-level parameters like the version number and device-level parameters like ring/silent mode are all potentially useful for accurately serving ad impressions — but they can be tricky.

Also Read: What Is Contextual Ad Targeting?

Consequently, publishers and advertisers need to look for innovative ways of operationalizing this data. They also should consider finding experienced partners that have developed proprietary contextual targeting strategies. But, before we dive into those topics, let’s get to know the data that drives contextual marketing campaigns.

Common contextual targeting data

Because mobile advertising has revolved around IDFA for years, many marketers are unfamiliar with the contextual targeting dataset. We’ve assembled a list below to provide you with a quick reference. Individual parameter availability will vary by platform and technology, but this list breaks down some of the most common mobile parameters advertisers need to know in this new era.

Completion rate: What a user’s completion percentage was relative to impressions by placement type.

Click rate: What a user’s click percentage was relative to impressions by placement type.

Prior click: Whether a user clicked on the previous impression during a session by placement type.

Prior skip: Whether a user skipped a video on the previous impression during a session by placement type.

Prior app bundle: What previous iOS app bundle a user viewed on the last impression during a session by placement type.

Prior advertiser domain: What previous advertiser domain a user viewed on the last impression during a session by placement type.

Prior video click type: How a user clicked on a video.

Impression depth: How many impressions a placement type earned in a user’s session.

Session duration: How long a user session was on an app.

IDFV: What device’s unique identifier is within a publisher’s iOS app portfolio.

Ring sound settings: Whether a device is on mute or not.

Battery charging: Whether a device is charging or not.

Bluetooth connected: Whether a device is connected to Bluetooth or not.

Wired headset: Whether a device is connected to a wired headset or not.

Battery saver status: Whether a device is set to conserve energy or not.

Dark mode setting: Whether a device is on dark mode or not.

Airplane mode setting: Whether a device is on airplane mode or not.

Do not disturb setting: Whether a device is on do not disturb or not.

Device available storage space: What a device’s current storage space is.

Device total storage space: What a device’s possible storage space is.

Battery level: What the power level on the device is as a range.

Device keyboard languages: What languages a device’s keyboard is set to handle.

ATTrackingManager.AuthorizationStatus: What an iOS app’s user tracking status is for a device.

Device hardware version: What the device’s hardware version is.

Internet Protocol version 6: What the device’s IP address is.

Time difference from UTC: What the time on the device is relative to UTC.

Developer user ID: What a publisher’s unique user identifier is.

App version: What the app’s version number is.

App store category: How Google Play or the App Store categorizes the app.

App store subcategory: How Google Play or the App Store sub-categorizes the app.

Framework name: Whether the app uses a “Unity” or “native” framework.

API level: What API level an Android app supports.

Developer domain: What publisher domain is listed on app-ads.txt.

Now that we’ve covered the data, let’s explore the most powerful contextual targeting strategies in mobile marketing.

4 essential contextual targeting strategies

Category-based strategies

The category-based approach is one of the most effective contextual targeting strategies. The strategy operates on the assumption that users attracted to an app or game in a given category will generally want to learn more about other apps or games in that same category. A user that plays RPGs, for example, will likely be interested in other RPGs. Combined with signals like click or completion rate, this targeting-by-analogy-driven strategy can yield strong performance.

Device-based strategies

This approach uses device-status parameters to inform campaign targeting. One common strategy is targeting devices based on their available storage space. You wouldn’t, for instance, want to advertise to a user who would need to delete content or other apps to install yours. Another best practice is to limit your audience to those whose devices have enough battery power to download and try out a new app. You also want to make sure that whoever sees your ad has a device capable of running an app or game, so you can filter users by technical specs.

While these contextual targeting signals aren’t necessarily the first that may come to mind when building an audience profile, they can ensure the users viewing your ads can act on the desired call to action and that overall campaign performance remains strong.

Portfolio-based strategies

The demise of IDFA has led to the rising use of the Identifier for Vendors (IDFV) to guide campaign targeting. The IDFV supplies user-level identification only within a given publisher’s portfolio. While lacking the comprehensiveness of IDFA, IDFV can be a powerful targeting tool for publishers that strategically invest in their app portfolios.

For example, developers can acquire games with low UA costs, like hypercasual titles, and appeal to similar audiences. They can then use cross-promotion powered by IDFV-targeting to channel that new user base to other mobile apps or mobile games they might like within the publisher’s title universe. To use IDFV optimally, many publishers will need to make adjustments to business strategy, but the payoff for those who do can be enormous.

Partner-based strategies

Sometimes, the best approach is to work with an experienced partner. Although contextual marketing may feel like a dramatic departure from the norm for most publishers and advertisers, some firms have developed specialized technology and datasets to drive accurate campaign targeting. GameRefinery, for example, has developed an AI-driven approach to contextual marketing that provides precision targeting via game aesthetic classification.

GameRefinery has created detailed profiles of mobile games and their audiences based on approximately 700 different data points. The data categories include player demographics and motivations, aesthetics analyses, feature analytics, and much more. This wealth of audience intelligence allows advertisers to achieve targeting accuracy on par with — and often better than — that derived using IDFA.

How to implement contextual targeting strategies

While challenging, mobile marketers can adapt to a post-IDFA world: There are several contextual targeting strategies that publishers and advertisers can implement to produce high-yield campaigns.

If you’re looking for a trusted partner to help you navigate this new methodology, then sign up. The expert team at Vungle, a Liftoff Company — combined with the power of GameRefinery’s proprietary contextual targeting technology — will provide all the support you need to blow past your mobile advertising goals.

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